Are you Dr. Santa, or Dr. Scrooge?

December 11, 2008

It’s two weeks before Christmas and I have spent the morning running from room-to-room seeing patients.

It’s two weeks before Christmas and I have spent the morning running from room-to-room seeing patients. As I wish them well for the holiday season, I sneak in my last sage advice, so fast they do not expect it: “And be careful during Christmas, watch those sugars.”

Yep, that’s me: Dr. Scrooge.

I know many Dr. Santas, who are wonderfully jolly and accept that during this time of year, when sweet yams and Christmas cookies sneak in under the mistletoe, diets go haywire. All those good little boys and girls, those wonderful patients who somehow manage to keep their dietary restrictions in check all year, are going to fall off the wagon for the stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Then what happens? Of course! New Year’s; resolutions! Dr. Santa accepts that this is a festive time and it is very, very difficult to turn away from a table of goodies when your loved ones are all seated there laughing and smiling. Who wants to be a party pooper and say, “No thanks,” to Aunt Mary’s famous sweet potato pie, the one she slaved over for hours in the kitchen? Santa also believes that a short-term period of hyperglycemia, which is then reigned in relatively quickly during a guilt-ridden January, may not do much damage in the long run as long as blood sugars do not get wildly out of control. So, Dr. Santa wishes all patients a wonderful holiday and shakes a jolly head at comments that “we will do better after the first of the New Year,” from patients. Because in addition to being jolly, Santa is a pragmatist and knows this is likely to happen anyway, so “save your energy and work on reeling them back in next year,” is the approach he takes.

Dr. Scrooge on the other hand, is not quite so lenient. Sure, Dr. Scrooge knows it is Christmas—can’t ignore all those decorations and carols on the radio, after all. And the fact that jellyrolls, gingerbread houses, and candy canes are in everyone’s grocery carts does not escape Dr. Scrooge. Just like Dr. Santa, Dr. Scrooge knows that this span of six weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas and New Year’s is when most people fall completely off their diet wagon, yielding to the social pressure of eating endless arrays of rich food as available to them right after walking in the door. It’s cultural, social, and sheesh, the food is just THERE. That’s a lot of pressure, but Dr. Scrooge still maintains his advice: be strong and stay controlled.

As much as I get into the holiday spirit, I admit it concerns me that vast amounts of eating, almost on the verge of gorging at times, is an accepted part of these holidays. Surely taking good care of yourself is also a way to celebrate? I hear echoes of my voice, but no agreement thus far when I bring this up in clinic… I stand firm on this: I wish all my diabetic patients could enjoy these holidays without feeling like an outsider if they do not partake in “Eat Fest 2008,” but I know this is not to be, so I offer my mindful advice instead.

"Please," I ask, "try to stay controlled and be careful. Yes, you can partake of your meal with family, that is part of what the holiday season is about, but taking care of yourself is also important, as a gift to yourself and to your family. Enjoy the meals, but keep portions small. And no seconds, please, especially for Aunt Mary’s sweet potato pie.”

This Scrooge means well. Happy Holidays everyone!